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Four Killed In South Russia Attacks

MOSCOW (Reuters) --- Four militants have been killed in two separate gun battles in Russia's volatile North Caucasus while bombs went off in both the capital of a third region and under a gas pipeline, Russian news agencies reported.

Violence has surged in the South Russian regions with the latest violence in three of the most volatile, Dagestan, Chechnya, and Ingushetia, raising questions about the Kremlin's ability to keep control of the mainly Muslim area.

In Dagestan, three men were shot dead on Sunday night when they opened fire on security forces after their car was stopped in the Khasavyurt region, RIA news agency reported.

Three guns, grenades and ammunition were found in the vehicle and the men were suspected members of a militant group RIA reports, quoting local law enforcement officials.

A bomb also exploded as a man tried to plant a bomb under a gas pipeline in the same region earlier on October 18 night, which did not damage the pipeline, but did injure the bomber, ITAR-TASS news agency reported.

"As a result of the...explosion, the bomb tore off his arms at the wrists," Tass reported, quoting local security officials.

In Chechnya, one militant was reported killed and two detained in a shoot-out with security officials early on October 19, RIA reported.

In another incident on October 19, no one was hurt when a bomb went off close to a police checkpoint in the Ingush capital Magas, RIA reported.

A series of suicide bombs and attacks on police and security forces in Chechnya, where Russia has fought two separatist wars since the mid-1990s, and the two neighboring regions of Ingushetia and Daghestan, have shattered a few years of relative calm in the North Caucasus.

Analysts see a danger of the area descending into open civil war, fuelled by Islamist militancy, clan rivalries, corruption, poverty, and brutal law enforcement.